Writing for Politico on Saturday, Anita Kumar noted that President Donald Trump suffers from a “scoreboard mentality” that requires him to break down the world into numbers and earn the best ones — and that mentality has not equipped him to offer meaningful leadership in a global pandemic.
“President Donald Trump is always keeping score,” wrote Kumar. “Sometimes it’s a simple brag — boasting about the highest State of the Union TV ratings in history, trumpeting that he appointed more judges than George Washington, inflating the number of electoral college votes he won in 2016. But cherry-picked numbers are also central to how Trump comprehends a crisis and crafts a positive narrative. As the coronavirus raced around the globe and seized the world’s economy, he has cited numbers to suit his own story that the pandemic would quickly pass and that his administration was in control.”
As an example, in February, Trump bragged the United States had only 15 coronavirus cases, and that number would soon be zero (there are now over 14,000 cases). And he pledged to offer 1.4 million coronavirus tests by mid-March (only 100,000 have been administered).
“Public health specialists say Trump’s use of misleading numbers to downplay the coronavirus outbreak — a challenge that could make-or-break his presidency — has had dangerous consequences, leading Americans to ignore official warnings about modifying behaviors to slow the disease’s spread,” wrote Kumar.
“He’s a man that hears what he wants to hears … and he puts it through the lens of a marketer. He is a marketer,” said American Public Health Association executive director Georges Benjamin. “His image is, ‘I’m on top of this, I’m tough,’ and anything he hears that supports that theory of the case, he grabs and utilizes.”
This is nothing new. Trump routinely brags about, and inflates, everything from his crowd size to the margin of his electoral college victory. But inflating a number does not change it, and nowhere is this truer than in a pandemic.
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